ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols was great once again. But in the eyes of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Reds first baseman Joey Votto was a little bit greater.
Pujols finished second to Votto in balloting for the National League Most Valuable Player Award, leaving him in a nine-way tie with three career MVP awards, second-most in history. Barry Bonds won the award seven times. With his runner-up showing, Pujols equaled the greatest player in Cardinals history, Stan Musial, who also had three wins and four second-place finishes.
Pujols secured one first-place votes, 21 second-place votes and 279 total points. Votto earned the other 31 first-place votes, one second-place vote and a total of 443 points. Pujols' first-place vote came from St. Louis, with Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch placing the two-time defending winner of the award at the top of his ballot.
While the rivalry between the two clubs became quite heated in the second half of the season, Pujols and Votto remain admirers of one another.
Pujols issued a statement congratulating Votto.
"I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Joey on winning the National League MVP Award," Pujols said in the release. "Joey is an outstanding young player that works extremely hard both on and off the field, and I'm proud to welcome him to the family."
Votto, meanwhile, acknowledged the gravity of beating out a player such as Pujols for the MVP.
"It's very special to have beaten out a guy -- from when I entered the league, you couldn't help but watch one of the greatest hitters of all time. He might go down as one of the greatest players of all time also," Votto said.
Two other Cardinals received consideration as well. Matt Holliday was named on 10 of the 32 ballots and finished 12th with 32 points. He received one sixth-place vote, four sevenths, one eighth and four ninths. Adam Wainwright was named on four ballots, receiving 12 points for a 17th-place tie with Carlos Ruiz and Dan Uggla.
For much of the season, Pujols and Votto battled not only for the lead in the NL Central and the MVP race, but a possible Triple Crown as well. But when the Cardinals fell off over the season's final seven weeks, it became clear that Votto was the favorite to win his first MVP Award. The two first basemen put up very similar numbers, and conventional wisdom went that the Reds' success would push Votto past Pujols to the MVP. That appears to be exactly what happened.
"I did some good things," Votto said. "Most importantly. We won. We went to the playoffs. It had been a long time since we went to the playoffs. I think that's the reason why I won. That being said, it's pretty freaking awesome to have beaten Albert Pujols for the MVP."
In his 10th Major League season, Pujols put up typically superb numbers. He batted .312, remarkably the lowest full-season batting average of his career, with a .414 on-base percentage and a .596 slugging percentage. Pujols led the NL with 42 home runs, 118 RBIs and 115 runs, winning his first RBI title.
Pujols also topped Votto in games played, appearing in 159 games to Votto's 150. Pujols won his second Gold Glove as well. He even amassed 14 stolen bases, the third time in his career that Pujols has managed double-digit steals.
Votto topped Pujols in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage while thriving in high-pressure situations. St. Louis consistently beat Cincinnati head-to-head, but the Cardinals' struggles against second-division teams doomed them to a second-place finish. The Reds made the playoffs for the first time since 1995.
In seven of his 10 years in the Majors, Pujols has finished first or second in MVP balloting. Only in 2007 did he finish lower than fourth, and even in that "down" year, he finished ninth in the voting.